About the Pope’s “don’t be like rabbits” remark UPDATED

About the Pope’s “don’t be like rabbits” remark UPDATED January 20, 2015




Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

First, kudos for Erin of Bearing Blog for spurring me to reread the full transcript of the Pope’s recent in-flight remarks. He didn’t precisely say “Catholics shouldn’t be like rabbits” (and he never used the word “breed” at all). What happened was that the reporter asked him what he thought about the idea that so many in the Philippines are poor because of the Church’s ban on contraception. The Pope replied:

God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.

Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.

So, yes, if you read the entire context, he wasn’t saying, “The Church thinks you shouldn’t be like rabbits.” He was saying, “Some people think the Church teaches this, but it doesn’t.” A subtle distinction, a fairly important one . . . and an unfortunately quotable phase that just screams to be misunderstood.

Francis Phillips of the Catholic Herald UK says pretty much what I thought when I read the stories about the Pope’s interivew: This is really nothing new, but yikes. Phillips:

[W]hile I knew exactly what Pope Francis was actually saying, I still groaned. … Those people who read and listen to the secular press and who already have their own prejudices against Church teaching, will remember and repeat the word “rabbits” like a mantra, while we Catholics will sigh and point out as patiently as possible that that the Church has always taught “responsible parenthood” – and indeed, the Pope mentioned this too, during that hour-long meeting with reporters on his flight home.

What the Holy Father implied was that “responsible parenthood” is what matters, not specific family size. This will be different in each family and with each couple; while the use of artificial contraceptives is intrinsically life-denying it can also be irresponsible to have children thoughtlessly, without regard to issues of health and family circumstances.

But the problem with these remarks, unless they are carefully developed and explained within the context of Catholic teaching, is that they might cause confusion, not only outside the Church but also inside, among faithful families. Yes – people can have large families from selfish motives, just as they can limit their families from selfish motives. But what about large Catholic families, struggling to do what is right in their circumstances and under the normal pressures and demands of family life? They might, wrongly, take the Pope’s remarks personally and worry that they are being profligate and irresponsible. They have taken the biblical words “Go forth and multiply” seriously, at great personal sacrifice. They have already, in our secular society, been dismissed as “breeding like rabbits”; the Pope’s remarks will seem to undermine them, however much this was not intended.

Yup. He wasn’t advocating contraception, and he wasn’t saying small families are better than big families. He said things that are true, but he said them in a way that gives ammunition to people who are sloppy thinkers, or who are unmotivated to find out what the Church really teaches, or who are looking for justification to hate the Pope. Which is just about everybody.

Look, this is our Pope. He’s kind of a blabbermouth, and sooner or later, he’s going to irritate just about everybody. And no, this isn’t the first time he’s said something that makes me go, “Oy.” All the more reason to pick your head up out of the constant stream of gabble in the media from time to time, take a deep breath, and focus on your own family and your own spiritual life, rather than diving headfirst into the outrage du jour. (And yes, that means you might end up reading my blog less. Go ahead, I can take it!)

Anyway, Phillips was nice enough to recommend my book as an antidote to some of the confusion over what the Church actually teaches about family size, and how to balance the seemingly contradictory ideas of responsibility and generosity. I do hope that it helps!

I guess if Catholics want the beautiful teaching of the Church to be better understood by a skeptical world, then it would behoove us to spend our energy, you know, using these dust-ups as an opportunity for sharing and explaining that teaching, rather than constantly bitching about the Pope. 

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  • Who is he to judge if Catholics want to “be like rabbits”?

    • simchafisher

      Yes, har har. I guess if Catholics want the beautiful teaching of the Church to be better understood by a skeptical world, then it would behoove us to spend our energy, you know, using these dust-ups as an opportunity for sharing and explaining that teaching, rather than constantly bitching about the Pope. But suit yourself.

      • He gives us so much to “bitch about” though doesn’t he? 🙂

        • simchafisher

          Like I said, suit yourself. Perhaps you really are being called to spend most of your time building up the Body of Christ by complaining.

          • If only a 79 year old non-English speaking Argentine would phrase things to be more compatible with the way U.S. people of my particular socio-political views want to hear them. After all, everything Pope Francis says is intended for people in the United States, right?

          • Will you let us know which off the cuff remarks are meant for the English speaking world and which are not?

          • The ones addressed to it. Otherwise, not.

          • So until the Pope arrives in the United States speaking English nothing he says applies to us? You can’t possibly believe what you just said.

          • You’re right. I don’t. Because I didn’t say that. But you know that and are pretending otherwise for rhetorical impact. That aside, I don’t pretend that comments made in an off-the-cuff interview or public appearance halfway around the world have the same scope, impact or importance as, say, Lumen Fidei or Evangelii Gaudium.

          • Unfortunately you are wrong about the scope and impact of the pope’s off the cuff remarks compared to official writings of the Church because most Catholics don’t bother to read what the Church official says. Instead they get their Catholic teachings from headline news like “Pope says don’t breed like rabbits”, thus the news media’s “scope and impact” has a much deeper influence on Catholics. I do agree that official documents are of course much more important than a Pope with loose lips, I actually don’t believe his off the cuff comments are important at all, except that they are damaging the Faith by causing confusion and chaos among Catholics who don’t properly know their faith. If the pope wasn’t so confusing in his comments, we wouldn’t need the Vatican officials to come out the next day and “clarify” what the Pope actually meant to say. This happens continually with this pope and that, in my opinion, IS the problem.

          • On the other hand, if the pernicious news media didn’t resort to
            tactics like out-of-context pull quotes to deliberately or ignorantly distort what Pope Francis “says”, there’d be little need for the Vatican to “clarify” what the media reported as the Pope’s meaning. Note I said “meaning”, because the sensationalist media rarely reports more than a selected few of Pope Francis’ words. Such rarely suits their purposes which I ascribe to “clickbait”. Neither is Pope Francis responsible for what “most people” bother to read or not read. If Catholics are getting their spiritual guidance from HuffPo and Slate headlines rather than from the ambo, there are bigger problems than who the Pope has an on-the-record chat with.

            So then the question becomes, since this is the world we live in, do we accept the errors on face value and react as if they had merit, or dismiss the shoddy reporting for what it is and look for better sources to make up our own minds? I mean, I’ve seen articles castigating Pope Francis for this upcoming document on the environment and it hasn’t even been published! Can we at least reserve judgement until we can actually read the thing?

            Also, I encourage people to avoid getting their catechesis from CNN, NYT, and Buzzfeed. Caveat emptor, and all that.

          • The media is indeed often to blame, but the Pope’s words are the Pope’s words and he must be held accountable for what he and how he says things. Right now, instead of watching what he says, he is relying on other Vatican officials to come out the next day and clarify his off the cuff statements and his interviews. Speaking clearly is important when the entire world is listening. I don’t think he’s learned that lesson yet.

          • It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood. (deliberately or not)

            –Karl Popper (supplemented by me)

            As to how he speaks, de gustibus non est disputandam.

          • I am certainly called to speak up and not bury my head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong.

          • simchafisher

            Yeah, but I’ve read your stuff, and your policy is more like “let’s pretend nothing is right.”

          • sixlittlerabbits

            I am impressed that you pick on your readers. Well, I have a complaint. Why do you as a practicing Catholic have an ugly pre-Christian fertility goddess as your logo? Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” has a chapter that explains that living infants were the offerings sacrificed to fertility gods such as Baal. These children were burned alive. As the heat of the flames reached them, the infants would grimace, and the onlookers would say they were “smiling” at Baal. Ewww.

      • Everyone will remember his jab at rabbit Catholics (among other jabs). No one will remember your heroic intervention to the contrary. That is his legacy. That’s the point. That’s our cross. That’s our pope.

        • Ed Hamilton

          I think I’m still upset about the lack of action with dissident feminist nuns in the U.S. I feel let down after so many years of deterioration. I’m stunned and honestly am not sure what “reforms” are being intended. Sorry Holy Father, I still love you!

      • Ce Gzz

        Weird, down there you say I can’t! decídete

    • Ce Gzz

      Even worst…what he said about that mother, almost “judging” her on being irresponsible.

      • Star Dust

        don’t you think risking one’s health for an 8th baby is irresponsible. 8 cesarians is tough on the body….. why risk leaving those kids without a mother?

    • Gotcha

      Ha ha!

    • sixlittlerabbits

      You might well ask. Francis seems to want it both ways. There are times he asks “who am I to judge?” But during the airplane interview discussed in this post, he had no trouble “reprimanding” a “woman” who had seven c-sections and was expecting her eighth child. The video of him saying this in Italian must be seen–his body language reveals neither sympathy or encouragement for this faithful and fruitful Catholic mother. The blogger is a native Italian speaker; the pope’s comments begin at minute 3:25 of the video; https://mundabor.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/rabbitgate-video-witness-shames-the-pope/

  • bearing

    You might lead with the point that the pope did not say “Don’t be like rabbits.”

    He said that some people say that is what church teaching means, and then went on to say that it is not.

    Check the whole transcript,

    • Lydia

      Yes-also, those of us with small families for various reasons welcomed the Pope recognizing that it’s not about family size. Also, he had an awesome meeting last month with large families where he waxed eloquent about how beautiful and good large families are.

    • simchafisher

      Thanks, Erin, I added a better intro. I stand by what I said that his words invite misunderstanding, though.

    • Antiphon411

      Every time this pope says something, the media take it out of context. His naked words can be twisted. “Read the whole transcript!” and “Compare it to the Catechism on page xx!” we are told.

      Isn’t it troubling that something a pope says can be read two ways? Do you think that you could find a sentence or two from the carefully worded statements of Pope St. Pius X and twist them into something contrary to the Faith?

      • WoolyWarrior

        I can take passages from the bible out of context and twist them to my will.

        It is not troubling that taking a phrase out of context can change the meaning. That is the way language is. What is troubling is that so many people do take things out of context specifically to twist someone else’s words to their own agenda, and even more disturbing is the amount of people who tend to believe the twisted words without stopping to think and check the validity of the source.

        For another example (besides the Pope’s), I can take a quote from one of your responses on this page. “…People with large families just can’t help gettin’ freak-ay.” With this quote, I can claim that you think parents of many kids have no self control.

        So I must ask the question: Is it your fault I have misrepresented your views with a misquote?

      • Rob Skrobola

        So, lots of stuff that Pope Francis says bothers me…However, the answer to your question is: Yes, I am certain I can find something in the carefully worded statements of Pius Xth that can be read as being contrary to the Faith.

        This is why we need the living teaching authority of the Church, because the meaning of the written word can often be miscontrued, especially when regarding complex topics.


      • WSquared

        Sure, it can be frustrating, but not all that troubling. Because this is old news.

        Let’s remember that there are folks out there who are absolutely sure that Christ was only talking symbolically about eating His flesh, and drinking His blood.

  • Rachel LaPointe

    I think there is a problem if every little thing has to be “carefully developed and explained within the context of Catholic teaching”. Like, ain’t nobody got time for that. I can’t explain the whole theology of the body, plus sacramental theology probably, to every friend who asks me “Well, don’t catholics HAVE to have a ton of kids?” It’s a lot easier to say “Hey no, we don’t have to be “like rabbits” as some people call us. We are called to be responsible parents, no matter what that looks like, and it will be different for every single married couple.”

    • Ce Gzz

      Funny but it is actually a lot of TOB couples who actually have more than just 3 kids…guess they do understand that the marital embrace is open to God’s will.

      • Coraline

        So, you’re saying only couples who have 3+ kids are “open to God’s will”? I hope I’m misreading you?

        • Ce Gzz

          You are!

          • Kory Oransky

            With all due respect, you are making a lot of assumptions about other people based on pure ignorance.

            You make no allowances for families who have struggled with infertility (both primary and secondary), others who have had miscarriages (I personally have had six, most in between the births of my two children), or others who have been advised not to have more children due to health (I had a uterine rupture with my second child.) Heaven only knows what you think of families who do not have the requirements (mostly financial) to adopt.

            But no, it’s easier to just assume that we have all stocked up on pills and condoms, isn’t it?

          • Ce Gzz

            So I really don’t understand where you read that I wrote “ALL”??? Way to assume I spoke of ALL couples. I talk about the couples I know. I certainly don’t know you or any “offended” person. But for real, ever since I came back to my country (Bolivia) I can make that asumtion, as catholics here do use contraceptives out of growing ignorance in pre-marital talks. Couples that marry and swear not to have kids so before marriage they both get medical procedure to ensure that promise. Couples that marry and when they can’t become pregnant they will hire a surrogate womb (that is even the expression they use) with no problem at all. Adoption? Who wants adoption if I can use IVF!? Adoption is regarded here as a tabu, the few families that do it always look a baby so that they don’t have to explain to all curios people they adopted (adoption here is not that high cost FYI). Women that fly to use the copper T, for their husbands have no clue about abstinence in certain days, little less they know about NFP, and use them only for their pleasure. Difficult pregnancies that do end up in mother and child death out of these cases of abuse. Hence, I do recognize that couples well educated, that study Theology of the Body are concious about the great gift they are given in procreation. But that is a teaching couples over here DO NOT HAVE. We do have priests like our Pope, who make those coments and do not guide couples before they get married. Most common thing I heard yesterday among “catholics” here? Ohh good now the Pope aproves that we use contraceptives so we don’t have kids like rabbits. They won’t read the whole declaration, they have no clue about Humanae Vitae, they totally ignore the Catholic Catechism and that is the danger about spilling those words with no real care in front of media.

          • Kory Oransky

            Coraline asked you if only couples with 3+ kids are “open to God’s will”, and you agreed.

            How is that NOT “all”? Or do you think that infertility or difficulty in adopting (it is a lengthy, expensive process here in the US, and with the economic downturn, many good families don’t have the resources to complete the process to adopt) doesn’t exist among the Catholic faithful?

            BTW, I think the woman who was most open to God’s will was our Blessed Mother, but I’m not sure that under your standards she would qualify since she only had one Son.

          • Rob Skrobola

            No, Ce Gzz did not agree. Read what was said. Coraline said:

            So, you’re saying only couples who have 3+ kids are “open to God’s will”? I hope I’m misreading you?

            Ce Gzz said:

            You are!

            The “You are!” was clearly in answer to “I hope I’m misreading you?”.


      • Two of the most devout Catholics I know only have two children. They have been open to God’s will their entire marriage (13 years). So do you think they don’t understand about being open to God’s will?

        • Ce Gzz

          Well almost all couples that I know and that study and teach TOB have more than 3 kids. I don’t know the ones you are telling me about, but compared to the other couples that I know (the ones who have no clue what is TOB), I do see a clear difference of who is more open to God’s plan. On the other side I have even heard more than once that they were using some sort of contraceptive. So in general YES, I do think that many do ignore what is God’s plan for a family.

          • Liberty

            Who are you to say what God’s plan is for individual couples? It’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. You don’t know how “open to life” people are just by looking at them. You don’t know if every child in a family with 9 kids was conceived in the way the Church says children should be conceived or if they had a lustful night. That is the truth. It’s not for you to judge. Sometimes I think people like you who obsess over whether people have XX number of kids are just obsessed with sex, not with God. Plenty of people recognize that’s there’s more to life than just sex.

          • Ce Gzz

            I speak about the couples that I KNOW. Do I have to remark I live in Bolivia where more than 70% of catholics are ignorant about the richness of our Faith and Church?. A double check in reading would avoid the explosion. Chill out!
            Obsesion with sex? Ha ridiculous judgment, but has given me a good laugh for the day!.

          • IRVCath

            After all, Nancy Pelosi has how many children? Wouldn’t exactly call her open to life, no?

            And the Pope Emeritus has how many siblings? Are we seriously going to intimate that Herr und Frau Ratzinger were using contraception, now?

          • Ed Hamilton

            As long as we are talking about specific cases, me and my wife have tried NFP (compatible with TOB) to actually improve our chances of having kids and we haven’t had one. It happens. If one out of 3 kids should be priest or religious, we also can up the replacement level average of 3 kids to probably 4. So whose to say that even 10 is “irresponsible”. I think the logic just isn’t there and responsible parenting errors on the side of letting God choose how many you have. It may also be that the chance of conception is lowered naturally by qualities like dense population. We don’t know. Let God figure it out.

          • Ce Gzz

            Have you tried not using NFP and letting God figure it out?

          • simchafisher

            Have you tried being banned from my inbox for being a complete ass? Here, try it. You might like it.

          • Ed Hamilton

            We have tried not using NFP and no babies. So, yes, in both cases God has not see for us to have babies. Our ages are getting to a point where its looking like its not going to happen.

        • Ursula

          Thank you for your insights about Bolivia. I wrote the wrong country in my first comment and I apologize for that… All that back and forth with these comments confused me. And I might add, I thought you had the patience of Job on these exchanges.

      • Ursula

        I understood what you were saying just fine. I did not assume that you were talking about every couple in the world. Thank you for your insights about Brazil… oops! I mean Bolivia…not Brazil.

        • Jo Flemings


          • Ursula

            Yes , Bolivia, not Brazil. Thank You!

  • Kristen

    Considering how some Catholics I know feel that the more children they bear, the closer they are to heaven…of course those are the same people I find complaining about the Pope.

  • Angelie Roth

    That last sentence about using these dust-ups as opportunities to teach- perfect! I don’t presume to guess at God’s will and intent in choosing Pope Francis. There are many reasons we cannot guess at, but he is getting the attention of the mainstream media and forcing more Catholics to talk about the faith and teachings of the Church to non-Catholics. God bless it and let’s pray for wisdom and open hearts.

    • WSquared

      There are many reasons we cannot guess at, but he is getting the
      attention of the mainstream media and forcing more Catholics to talk
      about the faith and teachings of the Church to non-Catholics.

      That’s not a bad thing at all: I guess we shouldn’t complain too much about “bad catechesis,” then, because we’re having lots of opportunities now.

  • Ce Gzz

    Being his mother tongue Spanish, we do understand this differently. What he said and even his “colloquial” tone is not a soft message. It is actually a harsh remark considering that some families in this southern part of the world are not composed by a loving husband. In this sense women have to “protect” themselves by using contraceptives as they are almost abused by their husbands. Instead of expressing his message with other words (can’t he just think twice before speaking?), this message sounds terrible in Spanish! It is almost a pointy finger to families that ACCEPT God’s gifts after the 3rd child, even when they use NFP. Much prayer and penitence is needed these days.

    • Wow, you can read the Pope’s heart, mind, and intentions? I hope you use your powers for good and not evil!

      • Why not? He read the heart, mind, and intentions of the woman he claimed was “tempting God.”

        • Antiphon411

          But he’s the pope. That’s one of his super powers.

      • Ce Gzz

        If you read an author more than once and don’t understand where he is coming from with those ideas…but alas, thank you for judging me 😀 (la Gracia de poder hablar más de un idioma).

    • Sarah

      He gave the interview on the plane in Italian, though, right? That’s what this link says http://americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/full-transcript-popes-press-conference-flight-manila So, I’m just guessing that a native Spanish-speaker, speaking in Italian, being translated into most languages on God’s green earth, is going to come across as offensive to some one. Reading the Gospels, Jesus sounds pretty offensive sometimes, too. But His message is clear, & so is the Pope’s (if people don’t spend all their energy being offended by it…)

      • Ce Gzz

        He doesn’t master Italian and in my experience with other languages (I speak 4 in total), your tendency is to express your ideas in you mother tongue. I should know better as my writting in English and German used to be with Spanish structure. It was only after studying in both countries and learning their expressions and how the handle words that I was able to get rid of my Spanish influence when I was skeaking or writing in those languages.

    • Riley Bell

      Isn’t God’s word channeled through the Pope?

  • Sheila C.

    I think it was important that he should come out and say this … when on the one hand there are people criticizing the Church for its stance on birth control, saying that we are told to have as many babies as possible in order to take over the world or some such nonsense, and on the other hand, some people believe that it could never, ever be wrong or irresponsible to get pregnant on purpose.

    In context, the Pope didn’t say “people breed like rabbits.” He said, some people SAY that Catholics have to breed like rabbits. He was answering a criticism which really is made, and saying it’s not true. We have children responsibly, as individuals, not shooting for a certain number but welcoming them when we can. Nothing rabbitish about that, even if you have a large family.

  • IRVCath

    I’ll also point out that the use of the words “responsible parenthood” was likely in part a not-so-subtle jab at President Aquino, who has (under American pressure) for the first time since Marcos, authorised the government budget be used to subsidize contraceptives. The bill authorising this calls this “responsible parenthood”. The Holy Father seems to be indicating that that is not “responsible parenthood” at all.

    • The Hook

      Ding ding! He was actually being pretty sarcastic if you ask me. A shot across the bow at the president of an ostensibly heavily Catholic country.

      • IRVCath

        Well, IIRC he promised not to do what he did at election time. Many voters believed him. Of course, the thing is, Philippine presidents can’t run for reelection, so apparently he decided that Hilary Clinton was a better master than Holy Mother Church or his own people.

  • So the pope telling her she is “irresponsible” for having that many children is a good thing for her and other Catholics? The lesson here is what? Don’t have multiple children if you’ve had a c-section?

    • God blessed me with two children, both born from c-sections. I would have happily have had a dozen more if God had wanted me to.

    • On the other hand, I have a friend who has had 7 C-sections, and no complications. After her last C-Section, her doctor said her uterus looked fine and he wasn’t concerned about future pregnancies, should she so choose. But quite obviously, Pope Francis was talking about women for whom 7 C-sections have caused a very real, very grave health risk.

    • Mandy

      I have had 8 c sections and I would love to have more children, when I read what the pope said,it was a great sadness. I am a faithful catholic, happily married. The dr. Said I could have more children. Why would he call that irresponsible? Isn’t there risk involved with every pregnancy? I thought it very imprudent and sad considering the current selfish world we live in. I have always thought my husband and my yes to another baby was beautiful.

      • He DIDN’T call that irresponsible. He was not making a blanket statement. If your doctor has judged that another pregnancy would not be a huge health risk for you, that is a tool you use in your discernment of another pregnancy.

        • Mandy

          In the article he was quoted saying that.


      • Athelstane

        I think Francis had an obligation to spell out what the additional reasons were that he was willing to rip her as “irresponsible,” so that people would know he’s making necessary distinctions. Multiple c-sections are an increased risk factor, but not enough to justify such criticism. Because, as you say, “no two situations are the same.”

        • Ce Gzz

          It would have helped him to be more clear….with irresponsible and I think of those couples in very bad economic conditions, where the husband thinks the wife is only for his pleasure. Oh no! he had to make a reference about that mother.

    • Morris Moose

      Is it relevant how many children he has? The point is that the pope very clearly cast aspersions on the woman on the basis of the number of C-sections, period. He did not talk about talking to her doctor, he did not distinguish between high risk and low risk per patient. His remark certainly did paint the woman in a bad light unfairly.

      • That isn’t true. He very clearly spoke about Catholics who believe they must have baby after baby after baby (“in series”) and he also cautioned against tempting God. It’s pretty clear that this woman was aware of the grave risk of getting pregnant again but thought she had to have more babies to be a good Catholic.

        • Athelstane

          He very clearly spoke about Catholics who believe they must have baby after baby after baby (“in series”) and he also cautioned against tempting God.

          Who are these people, though? Even in larger traditionalist circles I’ve been hard pressed to run into them. This has to be a microscopic section of the Church today.

          What was the grave risk? Multiple c-sections don’t quite count. But Francis unfortunately seemed to be saying just that.

          • Liberty

            Are you serious? I see this all the time. My grandmother died from this very thing, having baby after baby after baby.

          • One More Guy

            I know of two families near me who believe that on must intentionally have babies as often as possible and as frequently as possible; even to the point of risking death and personal injury.

        • Morris Moose

          “Very clearly?” What are you talking about?? He in no way make clear that this woman believed she “must have baby after baby”, his criticism was focused on 7 C-sections. Is that tempting God? What about the woman who dies having her first? Is she tempting God? “It’s pretty clear” that you are good at finding invisible text and imputing motives to people. Stick with the quote and you’ll see that his criticism was an 8th pregnancy AFTER SEVEN C-SECTIONS. Risky? Perhaps for some, obviously not for others. He had no grounds to use her as a negative example.

          • Ce Gzz

            oh forget it! We are not allowed to make statements…JoAnna thinks only the Pope can make those.

    • Ce Gzz

      A new hashtag is born!

    • Liberty

      Not if it’s detrimental to your health and your family.

  • I’m glad you posted this, as I haven’t had time to read the whole transcript yet but I figured there was some sort of context to the rabbits remark.
    In reading the CNS story, though, it was actually the anecdote mother who had seven c-sections that confused/troubled me more than “rabbits.” I think one thing I’ve learned from this papacy is not to pay such close attention to every comment or interview or minute detail of papal life.

  • Of course in general the family size doesn’t matter, but rather the mentality of a couple going into marriage. There will be some women who are very fertile, others who are not as fertile, and others who marry later in life. Not every women who doesn’t use NFP will end up with a bus load of kiddies. So, in the end, it evens out more or less, but it is true that the Catholic family would on average consist of more children than the national average for sure.

    Marriage vows are the “yes” to children as that is the primary purpose of the sacrament of marriage and the application of NFP should not be the norm but rather the exception when truly difficult times arise (in the past, couples would actually discuss their reasons for wanting to use NFP with a priest in order to obtain an outside objective opinion). The hard thing about “responsible parenthood” is that it is such a subjective term that really isn’t explained. People have so many different ideas of what constitutes “responsible”: ie, being debt free, having enough “love” and “lap space” to go around, avoiding “overpopulation” (a myth…), ect.

    Traditionally, being responsible is simply putting the family first in all decisions, raising the souls you are given in the Faith, and doing one’s best to ensure all material necessities are taken care of for your children (clothes, food, shelter).

    Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ comment makes people think that some sort of base “breeding” mentality pervades the Church itself and the external views of the Church. Honestly, Catholics really aren’t known for their large family sizes these days, partly because traditional teachings on family and marriage have gone by the wayside (Mormons and Muslims are more known for their family sizes these days). The bigger problem of birth control is a much bigger issue within the Church (especially in the Western world) as it has seeped in from the culture around us.

    In any case, the comment of our Pope does more harm to the understanding of the Catholic family than good, irregardless of his intent.

    • I’ll pick at a nit, because I’m a nitpicker.

      Marriage vows are the “yes” to children as that is the primary purpose of the sacrament of marriage…

      My understanding of the Catholic worldview is that the procreation of children is the primary purpose of natural marriage, while union with God and concrete manifestation of God’s union with us is the primary purpose of the sacrament of marriage.

      That is, every marriage everywhere in every culture has as its primary purpose the formation of a new family with the children that arise from the union of the spouses. Christian marriage elevates that natural relationship to an effective sign of God’s love for us and the communion with and in Him that he calls us to. As a sacrament, it conveys the grace that it signifies.

      Sacramental marriage presupposes and builds upon natural marriage – indeed, it is for Christians the same act and relationship – so their purposes are not opposed in any way. But they are distinct, and it sometimes causes confusion when people (especially the media) fail to understand the distinction.

      • Good point. Thanks for fleshing that out! I should have said “sacramental marriage” instead of the “sacrament of marriage”. However, as the sacramental marriage builds upon the natural marriage, the procreation and education of children are still the primary purpose of the marriage.

  • CJP

    I notice that the countries where Catholicism has a foothold are overrun with poverty and overpopulation. If there were less mouths to feed, more people could be educated and productive. Onan was not struck down for spilling his seed, he was struck down for denying a child for his brother’s inheritance. How is any barrier method more “sinful” than withdrawal or rhythm?

    • Ah, but it turns out the very best way to combat poverty and “overpopulation” is to educate girls — as in reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic — not birth control. Educated girls become educated women who are able to stand up for themselves, enter more equally respectful marriages, and decide for themselves how big their family should be.

      Withdrawal is sinful, as I understand it. All artificial birth controls, including barrier methods, are sinful because they deliberately frustrate the natural function of sex. NFP (or Fertility Awareness Method, for those who don’t want to be associated with the icky Church), on the other hand, works with a woman’s natural fertility and the fact that she can only get pregnant a set number of days each cycle.

    • (1) Calling BS on your statistic

      (2) Because Catholic teaching is that sex has to be both unitive and procreative, and nothing can frustrate the natural power of the marital act. Barriers deliberately frustrate the marital act by placing a barrier between husband and wife.

    • Morris Moose

      The punishment for denying his brother a child is not death. His abomination was the defilement of the act.

      Deuteronomy 25:5-10King James Version (KJV)

      5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.

      6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

      7 And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.

      8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;

      9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.

      10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

    • Morris Moose

      Barriers and withdrawal are sinful because they introduce something into the act which purposefully intends to frustrate conception. Rhythm does not introduce anything into the act but can still be sinful based on the person’s intentions and conscience.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    If you’re going to insist that the Pope used exactly the words he meant and that’s he not an ‘old blubbering fool’, then perhaps it behooves you not to distort his words. He did not say ‘some people breed like rabbits’. He said some people say that the Church wants people to breed like rabbits, but that this is not so. See the difference, Mr. ‘the Pope knows what he’s saying’?

  • AnonyMom

    He was right! Rabbits mate to reproduce out of pure instinct, for the sole purpose of making more rabbits. That’s not how human beings work and that’s hardly a new or controversial idea.

  • RWW1

    After reading the full text, it still sounds like he is advocating natural means of birth control. Especially the quote about the woman with the C-sections – sounds like the woman who thinks God will take care of her …is somehow wrong to think that? That she should have used the tools that God gave her to prevent the possibility of orphaning her other children. I just think the biggest problem is a lot of stuff that he says just doesn’t sound Catholic…doesn’t ring true in one’s heart. And at this point I’m not sure which I mind more…all the people out there bitching about the pope or the people bitching about people b*tching about the pope. This fuels the doubt in many mothers and fathers of large families if they are being ‘responsible’ bringing so many children into the world…especially a world getting more darker and more dangerous for Christians. As Jim Gaffigan said re: his fourth kid – “its like you are drowning and someone hands you a baby”. We wonder all the time about responsibility but take comfort that God will take care of it if we are open to his will. But I didn’t hear that from the Pope..I heard just that the Catholic church doesn’t oppose responsible parenting. No one may be more reviled in western society than the mother of a large family – “Don’t you know how that happens?”, “You don’t have to say yes to your husband every time he asks?”, “I think you’ve had your fair share of kids?”, “Are you done yet?”, “Is this your last?”, “You gotta do something to fix that this time?”

    • No, he is advocating Responsible Parenthood, just like the popes before him. See Humanae Vitae #10.

  • Athelstane

    The “rabbits” comment is, of course, just the sort of thing that, as Simcha says, is screaming to be misunderstood and quoted at length, invariably by anti-natalist sorts who already lob too many bombs and scornful stares at large families. I understand what point he was trying to make – you are not obliged to have as many children as you possibly can – but all anyone will remember is that the Pope compared fecund families to rabbits, alas.

    But be that as it may, I think the criticism he made of the Italian mother of seven was more troubling. I think Catherine Harmon at Catholic World Report put it best:

    It is, of course, possible that when he determined this woman was being “irresponsible,” the Holy Father was aware of her reproductive history, her family-planning methods, her reasons for having a large family, and her doctor’s opinion of those seven c-sections and her eighth pregnancy. If he did not have this information, his comments begin to look a lot like something many Catholic mothers have to suffer regardless of the number of children they have: uninformed criticism and shaming about the size of their families.

    Some suggest that Francis carefully thinks out everything he says. Frankly, I’d prefer not to think so, as that increases his culpability. There’s a reason why impromptu interviews like these are such occasions for danger for public figures. Perhaps Francis knew a lot more about this woman’s situation such that he could label her “irresponsible.” If so, he had an obligation to make clear what those circumstances were, so that every mother of several children (and everyone who knows her) who has had c-sections knows he’s not taking a shot at her. Better yet, however, would not have been to mention her at all.

    • StumbleBumble

      You know after reading your comment I remembered an aunt whom I loved very much. She was my mother’s older sister and had seven kids. She had two miscarriages and a baby who died two days after she did. She was a good woman but she decided that despite her health, “she would have as many children as God allowed.” After her second miscarriage, she got pregnant again after the doctor had specifically advised her not to. She suffered a massive stroke eight months into her pregnancy. The baby was taken by emergency c-section only to die two days later.

      She left behind seven children ranging in age from 14 to 2 years of age.

      The example our Holy Father used was a good one especially since my entire family lived it by losing my aunt and the baby.

      • Liberty

        Yes, my family had something similar happen. The kids were all split up and we all still feel the effects. Not a good thing.

      • Athelstane

        I’m sorry to hear of that, Gordis. I think the point, though, is that every mother’s medical history is different. Not every woman who has had several c-sections is facing the same risk factors. (See leadingedge’s post right above.) Perhaps the Pope knew of those risk factors and medical history in this woman’s case; but he never mentioned them.

        • StumbleBumble

          I am well aware of the fact that every woman is different. I understood our Holy Father quite well without his giving out further details since my family lived it. Other women in my family had similar experiences but thanks be to God, they did not die and leave their children behind but they came close to it including my own mother.

    • leadingedge

      Well said Athelstane – you have summed up exactly how I feel about this latest interview: it was the comment about the mother with multiple caesareans that was far more problematic in my mind.

      I know of two good and very responsible Catholic women who are right now feeling very hurt by the fact that the Pope chose to use their exact family scenario (8 caesarean births) as an example of irresponsible parenthood – they are both wondering why their Pope has just told the entire world that their family was an irresponsible act which “tempted” God.

      I would also question why a shepherd (any shepherd) would make an example of someone in an international press conference who seems to be an actual person he has met (based on what I have heard reported) – if it truly is the case that this is a real woman he is talking about, then surely her human dignity demands better than to be trotted out as an object lesson for the entire world to hear about?

      • Athelstane

        I know of two good and very responsible Catholic women who are right now feeling very hurt by the fact that the Pope chose to use their exact family scenario (8 caesarean births) as an example of irresponsible parenthood

        Ouch. I’m very sorry to hear that.

        I am struck that among Catholics I’ve talked to about this over the last few days, it’s the women (esp. mothers) who are most worked up about it, and it’s that passage they have keyed on, not the rabbits comment.

      • Gotcha

        If they were using IVF or surrogacy to “insist” on having children when it was clearly not God’s will, THAT would be irresponsible. Being brave enough to put up with the discomfort of 8 caesareans (wow) is simply being very meritoriously dedicated to allowing God’s will to happen. It’s not like running out in front of a bus and “tempting God” to let it hit you, OK?! They’re just taking life as it comes, and trusting that God knows what He’s doing!
        Btw doesn’t it strike you that the people (maybe including the Pope) are coming very close to criticizing God for being irresponsible enough to send these children?

    • Liberty

      As c-sections are a lot more dangerous than natural birth how is it not irresponsible and dangerous to have so many? If you know your body will undergo trauma and, especially with that many, could be a death sentence, then you do have a responsibility to consider your other children, too.

      • But then is she obligated never to have sex again, in order to prevent such? Wouldn’t that be the only licit way of truly avoiding pregnancy? I think this is one of those hard situations where I have a difficult time with the idea that she can’t have a tubal ligation during her next c-section.

        Ugh. I get what the church teaches, but sometimes in practical life situations, it’s just so hard.

        Actually, could she just have the tubal ligation and then just go to confession? I realize that’s back handed, but wouldn’t it solve the problem?

        • Rob Skrobola

          At the cost of committing an objective mortal sin. Which presumably, as a Catholic, is a problem.


        • Momtoafew

          Yes…it seems that her option is total and absolute abstinence, because even with absolute perfect use nfp is not 100%. That is hard. My issue is that Pope Francis didn’t say THAT. He made it sound like people in her situation should just use NFP-but if it is so irresponsible and not right to just ‘trust God’ in such matters, as he says, then using NFP is ‘tempting God’ as well because it is not 100%. You do trust God that you may be that 1-2%(higher with actual imperfect use)… So, his solution to couple’s in these shoes is not as easy nor simple as he makes it sound. NFP fails, or is hard, or morphs into absolute abstience for sometimes years…more charity is needed from our clergy in discussing these matters, and that is what I saw lacking in his comments.

          • Sheila C.

            Yeah, unfortunately there is no good Catholic answer to this. The Pope made it sound as though avoiding pregnancy is super easy and sure to work, while in reality, over years and years of use, seems like pretty much everyone has NFP fail on them for one reason or another. I know two very-high-risk women who, not wanting to tempt God, used NFP and got pregnant anyway. Do we just assume God wants this baby so much he’s okay with the mother dying?

            I think, though, that this is what the Pope meant when he talked about confessors being understanding and merciful. The temptations people have to use artificial methods are very strong in some circumstances.

    • Sarah

      I agree. I feel so bad for this mother, who is trying to do her best and trust in God, and gets slammed by her Holy Father worldwide. Very few women die from c-sections, so his logic doesn’t make sense unless there are other circumstances he doesn’t mention. I know faithful families with 1 or 2 or 11 children. God has different plans for different families, what’s important is that you’re open to His plan for your family, whether that’s 0 or plenty children. It really came across as mocking those large families.

      • WSquared

        I dunno. Depending on whether that mother with seven C-sections felt pressured or felt that she can only be a “good Catholic” by having child after child, she might even feel relieved– grateful for the children that God has blessed her with, but perhaps relieved that big families are okay, and not having child after child after child is also okay. I think the Pope mentioned that this woman’s uterus was paper thin?

        That may not be the same for all women who have had multiple c-sections; I don’t know.

  • rec

    Personally, I took great comfort in the Pope’s words. I am sick of people telling me the “be fruitful and multiply” means “disregard human reason and follow your carnal desires”. Such bunk. Disclaimer: I have lots of babies, and I know I was called to have each one of them 🙂 But that doesn’t mean everyone is called to my same life! I think Simcha’s book “The Sinner’s Guide to NFP” explains this principle really well!

    • StumbleBumble

      Beautifully said. I have no babies as I never married but when I see families with kids of all ages, I smile and thank God for such beauty.

      Another thing, Papa Francis is a native Spanish speaker like me, so I am of the opinion he thinks in Spanish too when talking Italian or English. I cannot be sure but if he says something it does many times get lost in translation.
      The whole rabbits thing has been pretty funny though but I understand if some folks are upset.

      Please pray for our Papa. He has the Church upon his shoulders. He has come from the ends of the earth and he’s doing the best he can. He’s a pastor at heart and still speaks and acts like one.
      I thank God he has given him to us all. ^^

      • vs. Lincoln NB

        Hi Gordis85. Excellent comments! Exactly right about translation/trans-cultural POSSIBLE misunderstandings. Spanish[ or Italian] to English.

        LOVED your sentence: “The whole rabbits thing has been pretty funny though, but I understand if some folks are upset.”

        LOVED your near-perfect final paragraph!

        I do want Pope Francis to move WAY faster on Women’s Equality/Ordination Issues. (By the way: Women ARE Equal to Men!)

        But with the coming up Environmental Encyclical, I bet he was thinking, something like: “Might as well get the Buzz going, on the REAL Environmental CONCERNS.”

        Hey! The Youth could perk up their ears. And Start Thinking! Always good for, sometimes easily bored, Youth.

        It IS a Climate EMERGENCY, hard for some people to face! (I think especially, if they have serious STRESS in their lives.)

        So maybe his “too casual” remark wasn’t so casual, but a “wake-up”.

        Maybe even SPECIFICALLY for CATHOLIC MEN who might be changing, and beginning to consider Climate EMERGENCY ramifications.

        I’m sure Pope Francis was LOOKING FORWARD in this comment. Speaking in the context of the Environmental CRISIS!

        As an intelligent Jesuit, he knows, what the world really NEEDS is Environmental Buzz! Fast! Where I live, NASTY Nestle (Chocolate
        company–also owns Toll House Chocolate) is trying to TAKE-OVER a beautiful, pristine location of pure, glacier-fed springs! And put that pristine water in More (estrogenic) plastic bottles. Not MORE plastic bottles, to swirl in the ocean??!!

        Nasty Nestle, who has bought out some Mexican chocolate companies, and inserted GMO soy in the lovely, sacred chocolate.

        Nasty, Nasty, Nestle DESTROYS the Very Best! Buy only Fair Trade Chocolate for Valentine’s Day. Please DEAR NCR-ers! POR FAVOR!

        • Barbara

          Sigh, the Church is never gonna ordain women. There’s nowhere to “move” on that issue. Women are equal to men, but Catholicism has a gendered liturgy and is not going to change that because over fed American progressives stamp their feet about it. People who push for women’s ordination have such a narrow view of what the priesthood is. They don’t even understand it. They whine “why can’t women have poooooooweerrrrrr?” When the priesthood has absolutely nothing to do with power, and anyone who thinks so is a piss poor candidate for the priesthood anyway.

          As for the cultural differences, I wish all of the whiners and whingers and pearl clutchers getting the vapours about the popes comments could spend five minutes in Argentina. That is exactly how people talk down there, off the cuff, expressive, no filter. I wonder if it’s not a bit of racism coming through.

          • desiderata1

            Well done.

          • vs. Lincoln NB

            Hi Barbara, Surprise answer! I think you are a talented writer.

            I totally agree with all your Feelings expressed. And I LOVE the last part about “how people talk down there [Argentina] off the cuff, expressive, no filter”.

            Of course you are right, the Priesthood is about SERVICE, (and probably more sleep deprivation if you are a woman). I am a recovering “Thought Sleep Deprivation was SAINTLY” kind of Catholic.

            FUNNY: I have a Certificate as a Deaconess, from the Catholic Church–with no Ordination allowed, of course.

            Sooooo, guess what? I am an unofficial deaconess–so there! Same work. Just no recognition. Hey! I’ve got the EDUCATION. So too late. I’m unstoppable.

          • Barbara

            If you’re looking for recognition, you are definitely in the wrong vocation. As for education, well you have to look pretty far into the bowels of arch-conservative Catholicism to find people opposed to the idea of women studying theology or philosophy. Ordination is not the same thing. It is a spiritual/poetic ritual open only to men. The priest is a male archetype both in its fatherly and genitive dimensions. I as a woman and an academic have no problem with that distinction. It says nothing about equality or power or merit, it is a dance, a tango of preestablished steps, which I could either follow or refuse to participate in, but which I have no right to demand be changed. It’s bad form, like the guest at a banquet giving orders to the host.

          • vs. Lincoln NB

            Hi Barbara, Thanks for the Reply. I’m time limited, so for this little exchange, my short answer now, is all I can do.

            Yay academics, and “more power to them”! Sincerely. And the banquet analogy was perfect. Because scripturally the “lame and blind” outcasts were TO BE INVITED.

            So sounds like discounted, and outcast-ed women, INVITED to me!
            And a genuine host, would treat guests all the same! (Might find that at a Quaker meeting, or among warmer Latin Americans. Among Anglos, a lost art?)

    • Antiphon411

      “…’disregard human reason and follow your carnal desires’…”

      Yes! Because people with large families just can’t help gettin’ freak-ay.

      • rec

        I was referring to people with the idea that everyone is morally obligated to have a large family, not people with large families. Plus, as I mentioned in my comment, I have a large family!

  • Peggy Taylor

    I don’t have a bit of trouble with the Pope. He talks a lot and everybody is hanging on to what he says to find something wrong with it. I grew up in North Carolina, always having to explain the church and being considered less because I am a Catholic. One day I decided that I would never defend it again because it its the true Church and there is nothing to defend. Because no one else is perfect. I love my Church, the Pope speaks in his language and the way he expresses things sound different sometimes from what we are used to. So what. Are we intelligent, reasoning people? Do we not know the media twists as much as they can around for sensationalism. It’s all ridiculous to me. How about dwelling on the positive for a change and don’t look constantly for the negative. Unfortunately, that’s what our world is all about.

  • If the Church has always taught “responsible parenthood” then the concept could be found earlier than Gaudium et Spes.

  • Seeking

    I’m wondering where all the outrage from the “ZOMG RABBITS” people was when Pope Francis clearly dissed infertile people last month as he complimented large families as being blessed and a witness to society. Oh wait, so when his statement like THAT is misconstrued by others but fits with your beliefs, then we don’t bitch and moan about it? Is it that “we always have to explain what he means!” or is it “whenever he says anything that differs from the American Conservative party line, we need to attack it”. I spent Benedict’s papacy explaining a TON of things to liberals who were bitching and moaning about how radically conservative he was (he totally wasn’t….he was CATHOLIC) and now I get to do the same to the bitching conservatives who are all LIBRULLLLL whenever Francis opens his mouth. Well except all the times he says clear Church conservative church teaching and he pisses of the OTHER folks, that is just fine and dandy and we don’t have to worry ourselves about it.

    • Antiphon411

      Yeah, cuz like American Conservatives are totally about having large families!

    • leadingedge

      Except the Pope never dissed infertile couples – praising large families is not the same thing as disrespecting, or mocking couples who carry the cross of infertility.

      His latest comments are more problematic than just highlighting an age old Catholic teaching (that of responsible parenthood) – the issue is the way in which he chose to phrase it.

      I know of two good and very responsible Catholic women who are right now very hurt by the fact that the Pope chose to use their exact family scenario (multiple caesarean births) as an example of irresponsible parenthood – they are both wondering why their Pope has just told the entire world that their family was an irresponsible act which “tempted” God.

      I’m not an anti-Francis whack job, but at the same time I think it’s clear that he needs to be more cautious about the way in which he phrases things (especially in a media setting like this).

      • Liberty

        I have never heard him say anything complimentary or inclusive about single people or people who have not been able to have kids. It’s always about large families.

      • lifeknight

        I, too, was more offended by the comments regarding Caesarian births. The Pope loves to gab and says whatever enters his brain at the moment. Sometimes it is good and other times it is a disaster. He just doesn’t get it, (that his words will be misinterpreted) so one has to tune him out or get angry every time he speaks “off the cuff.”

      • Star Dust

        he also praised adoption as one of the greatest things a person can do….

  • michicatholic

    Patheos Catholic looks like a pet shop today. Rabbits everywhere.

  • michicatholic

    The pope talked about a lot of pressing issues, including poverty, in that interview. And yet, why is it that there are only rabbits all over patheos Catholic? Is that the only topic?

  • Abraham Yeshuratnam

    This Pope, as leader and spokesman of Christians worldwide, has not visited the refugee camps of hundreds of thousands Iraqi Christians. He has not negotiated with European leaders to give them asylum. Instead he has been making pompous visits to Korea, Turkey, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He is also slipping from fundamental Christian beliefs regarding gay, lesbian marriages, evolution, Big bang, and now foolishly supporting terrorists who killed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. There is population explosion of Muslims and Christian population is rapidly dwindling due to planned parenthood,gay, lesbian marriages, widespread abortion,rampant divorces and singles. And this pope says, ‘don’t breed like rabbits.’ and thereby abetting Muslims to own Christian countries. He has also remarked about ‘macho’ to have more women to receive him. Something is fundamentally wrong with him. Or is he craving for cheap popularity?

  • lolacynch

    I think you must take the Pope’s statement in the context of his just concluded trip to the Philippines, where the focus was on the poor, and where the recently enacted Reproductive Health Law (which was opposed by the Catholic Church, but sorely divided the Catholic community) was mentioned. it is a fact that the poor in our country are the ones who, excuse the phrase, “breed like rabbits”, for a host of reasons – lack of education and access to responsible parenthood training, the cultural “belief” that the wife is not supposed to say no, and even because, as they say, they have nothing else to do to while away their time (if you get what I mean). It is this sector in our country that is in dire need of responsible parenthood training, and while the Church asserts that it has always supported responsible parenthood, sadly, in the Philippine setting, this is not evident. Some priests have actually said that it is ok for the poor to have many children, for who knows, one of them may be the one to succeed in life and pull the family out of poverty (sort of like playing Russian roulette). I would like to think that the Pope’s remark was as much directed to the Philippine Catholic Church as it was to the its flock, as a reminder that the Church, in opposing artificial contraception, must also provide its flock with reasonable alternatives to achieve responsible parenthood, especially the poor sector that needs it the most.

    • IRVCath

      With respect, Lola, po, The Reproductive Health Act wasn’t just about providing counseling on responsible parenthood. If it was only that, it would have likely had little if any opposition from Holy Mother Church. It was the part about contraception that aroused the opposition of the Church. What the Holy Father calls responsible parenthood and what a certain gentleman from Tarlac, as well as Luzviminda Ilagan calls responsible parenthood only seem similar on the surface.

  • suburbancorrespondnt

    I do think the Pope needs to apologize to rabbits, though….how does he know they don’t plan? 😉

    • IRVCath

      Rabbits, as animals, don’t have the higher functions humans do?

  • Rick

    “He said things that are true, but he said them in a way that gives
    ammunition to people who are sloppy thinkers, or who are unmotivated to
    find out what the Church really teaches…”
    Just like the Bible! There is also an awful lot in the Bible that gives those same sort of people exactly the same sort of ammunition.

    • But that’s exactly why we need our Popes to speak with clarity! They are the ones that pass along the interpretation to us, so we are unified in theology and thought.

  • Jane Rogers

    Wow, this is such a complex topic on so many levels. At this point in history, everyone should be invested in Zero population growth or less. Our survival depends on it. We can choose to have more children and let war, starvation, and disease handle it or we can be pro-active. I won’t go into the history of why people used to have an abundance of children but I am sure that once the world was populated, it quickly became an issue of survival and power. And it still is because unless everyone buys into less is more, the people with more will have the power. This is a people issue not a God issue. I don’t believe God cares whether we procreate but is intensely more interested in how we treat those who are already here. I think it is immoral to have more children than you can provide for as well as having more children than the world needs (19 and Counting) in light of the many people in the world starving to death.
    Let’s focus on what real love is and give people the tools, education and support they need to have quality of life. And let’s not forget that when people perpetuate flawed arguments and limited or no access to effective birth control, women and children are the ones who suffer the most.
    Go, Pope Francis but go further and empower women to use the life they have been given to make a difference instead of more children. We were not made to procreate, we were made to love.

  • Thomas

    I like Pope Francis but I think he should avoid improvising to journalists.

  • anna lisa

    I’m glad he said it. Why dance around the topic? People don’t get it if the message is so artfully, tactfully and philosophically couched that they zone out before it hits home. I can’t remember where I read it, (something you linked to once) but people can objectify their own children if they have them for the wrong reasons.

    I once moved to a new area, and I was getting to know the “real” Catholics. I was introduced to this youngish father who shook my hand. Within two minutes he was trying to compare Catholic stats. Homeschoolers! Wife expecting their tenth! Travel X amount of miles to get to the two-hour Latin mass every Sunday at the such and such convent!
    I was informed of these things in such short order. His wife looked really. really. wan and tapped out. –I’m sorry, but he had the biggest slickster- attitude. Like that guy Cody on sister wives, or this creeper that drives a bright yellow Ferrari that haunts the bars here. *Everybody* knows he made millions founding a chain of colleges, –because he can’t wait to tell you! –even though everyone laughs because it’s a diploma mill.

    I’m not saying this to rain on anybody’s parade –and I’ve had children at questionable times. Erring on the side of generosity is the right thing to do…but never if your wife and children become some questionable means to a questionable end.

    Pride is an insidious thing. I don’t think those kinds of Catholics are terribly common though–most people who forgo *things* to have “treasures” (many children) are heroes. God blesses their heroic efforts.

    • WSquared

      Well said. It’s not that any of those things– wife, ten children, and the Latin Mass– are bad per se. It’s only when they become “Catholic stats” and “Catholic street cred.”

      Have you read Cari Donaldson on the “devout objectification” of children? It sounds like you might have.

      • anna lisa

        Yes, you’re right, and I’ve known a true saint who fit those stats too.
        I think it was somebody quoting Cari Donaldson’s book, that really clicked and *allowed* me to see it in those terms. I didn’t read any blogs when I had encounters like those. I’d just get this annoyed feeling, grumble about it to my husband, and then feel guilty for grumbling.
        What I appreciate the most about reading a lot of different Catholic views on the internet, is that it has allowed me to find solidarity with others, and have those light bulb moments when I can say “yes! that. I agree! You clarified that nagging doubt I had, and put it in reasonable terms!” –Instead of thinking that I was a bad person for listening to my gut and entertaining the thought at all.
        I have struggled with scrupulosity at times.

  • Momtoafew

    Do we know anything about this lady that is having her 8th c-section? What if she was using NFP? He says that we have these tools to control our fertility, and we are encouraged to do so, but NFP babies happen-that is the issue I have with his comment. So, you decide that having more babies is not responsible, but the only recourse you have as a faithful catholic is NFP, which is not 100%.

  • Momtoafew

    He expects us to have 100% control over our fertility, but the church binds us to a form of fertility control that is NOT 100%. That is my beef with what he said. NFP is pretty accurate, but there is a fail rate… so there will be a lady that has a baby when it is irresponsible to do so. I know this…now. So, his statement…well I may be one of those mom’s that he judges, questioning why I would have another baby despite being able to stop it with NFP…and that is just lame Pope Francis…if you only knew! 😉


  • Momtoafew

    Simcha, I wonder what you think about this part: “Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood…” ‘With his pastor…’ Does that mean that we should counsel our priest in planning the size of our family? Always? Is this a requirement to truly be responsible? Is it permissible to make your own judgment as to what is ‘responsible,’ or must we consult the church?

    • simchafisher

      Yeah, there is no requirement to consult with a priest before making decisions about whether or not to have another child (as long as you’re using methods approved by the Church, obviously). If a couple is really uncertain, I don’t see how it could hurt if they mutually agree to go to a priest they both trust for guidance; but it’s not a requirement.

      In my experience, priests are so thrilled that you’ve even heard of NFP that they don’t have much more to add besides the advice to pray together as a couple (which is good advice, of course). But I’ve also heard of priests who will say, “You’re proven you’re open to life by having X number of kids, so God wouldn’t mind if you got your tubes tied” and I’ve heard of priests who will say, “NFP is for concentration camps and cancer patients. Suck it up and trust God.” So pastoral advice is kind of a crap shoot, unfortunately. I can imagine a couple’s growth actually being stunted by thinking that they should just do whatever the priest tells them. It would be much more valuable to learn how to prayerfully come to decisions together as a couple, IMO.

      • Momtoafew

        Thanks Simcha 🙂

  • Mike O’Malley

    Pope Francis should not give interviews. Lists are now being compiled of all his “zingers” and “stunners.” He is an embarassment demeaning his office and the Church. One good thing about the growing list of inappropriate comments is that his legacy will be that of a personally idiosyncratic eccentric, rather than distorting the teaching of the Catholic Church, which we can go back to after his reign ends.

  • Elizabeth K.

    It’s also worth pointing out the second half of what he said, which was , to paraphrase, that sometimes folks who seem too poor to have another child regard that new child as a treasure. And we should respect that. The general thrust of his remarks had a great deal to do with ideological colonization, and saying “sure, we want people to be responsible but how about you also recognize your own ideological blinders about children.”

  • Lisa_Ann

    I am a mother of eleven
    children and very joyful to hear Pope Francis tell the world basically that we
    are not rabbits!! and quote “we don’t have to be like
    rabbits”……Many people have (lol) asked me if I am a rabbit because I
    have sooo many children and truly your caught off guard when people ask you
    this and you don’t really have an answer when your so shocked people say such
    things…….and Pope Francis (lol) has made it clear we are not rabbits…and
    quote “don’t have to be like rabbits”……so I am thankful and
    complimented that he addressed this problem. ………..because if you really
    look at how rabbits are like you will know why he said this……. When I was
    young we had a male rabbit and a mother rabbit who was pregnant with the male rabbit’s
    offspring. One night the mother rabbit gave birth overnight to the baby rabbits
    and the male was in the cage when she gave birth. When we woke up the baby
    rabbits were all dead (bloody dead)…and we found out that the male rabbit
    kills his offspring and should never be around his newborn rabbits. ….so
    praise God that Pope Francis said that Catholics “don’t have to be like
    rabbits” because rabbits have no respect for the life of the mother or
    their offspring and Pope Francis made it clear that the most poor TREASURE
    their children who are gifts from God – unlike rabbits and he wanted us to look
    at the “generosity of the father and mother who see a treasure in every
    child” …… Pope Francis also gave us a great GRAVE reason to use NFP
    which is responsible parenthood….because he has the highest respect the
    dignity of woman, who are the heart of the family and who are made in God’s
    image and likeness and especially woman who are at high GRAVE risk when being
    pregnant. I am grateful he mentioned this because many woman who are in GRAVE
    danger need to know that they can use NFP and that is what NFP is to be used
    for. I want to also mentions that Pope Francis said ” I think the number
    of THREE children per family that you mentioned – it makes me SUFFER
    …..” because the interviewer was asking the Holy Father about the number
    three as an ideal number of children per family and saying that the Philippines
    did not agree with the teachings of the church on contraception etc..etc…
    Truly, if you think about it…contraception is silent chemical abortion
    =silent murder in the womb of the mother….and abortion is surgical
    abortion===murder… Isn’t using contraception wanting to be like rabbits????
    truly…contraception and abortion today are the worlds view of responsible
    parenthood and the government wants to force all of us to pay for this…..We
    need to hear from the Holy Father quote -” that in order to be good
    Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. NO. Responsible parenthood. ” ==
    love=Treasure for the gift of the child and mother ♥also the Pope is applauding being open to large families as all of the Holy Fathers!

  • MG Ragan

    Pope Francis is either dangerously pernicious or unbelievably stupid. I haven’t decided which it is yet, although his performance at the Synod suggests the former. I am no big fan of John Paul II, who relinquished his duty to protect his flock from heretics and predators, but can you imagine him saying some of the things Francis has said? This pope is exactly the wrong person to be holding his office at this time. The Church, like much of the rest of the world, needs leadership that is courageous, honorable and true. He is fast becoming the religious equivalent of Barack Obama. God help us.

  • MG Ragan

    By the way, I am the parent of eleven children and I hate carrots. 🙂

    • Parque_Hundido

      That is the worst news I’ve heard all year. People like you should not be allowed near children.

  • CM_J

    From the Merck Manual’s “Breeding and Reproduction of Rabbits” –

    Feeling the doe’s abdomen for grape-sized embryos in the uterus is one technique for detecting pregnancy….Nest boxes should be added to the cage 28 to 29 days after breeding. If boxes are added too soon, they become fouled with urine and feces….A day or so before giving birth, the doe pulls fur from her body and builds a nest in the nest box….Most medium- to large-sized female rabbits have 8 to 10 nipples, and many give birth to 12 or more young….Young does may kill and eat their young for a number of reasons, including nervousness, neglect (failure to nurse), and severe cold….Cannibalism of the dead young occurs as a natural, nest-cleaning instinct.

  • hoyamom

    Where is Pope Benedict? How did this coup happen?

  • ear

    I am implementing the popes edict with my partner now and it works great. We have no money so we practice the rhythm method and avoid breeding like rabbits.we are always in the mood anyway. Plus we feel that we are respecting the sexual teachings of the Vatican and francis which makes it more special in our eyes. If the pope says it is responsible parenting I must obey his words. He is the holy father. Each case is different but it really depends on your salary and job stability. I think this is what the pope is driving at. He is wise because he.has seen so much poverty in his day. He wants to protect children.

  • ear

    Being responsible means being open to having children during intercourse if you can feed them. That’s all the pope is saying. If you can’t take care of them use precaution upon entry.

  • Robin Warchol

    “kind of a blabbermouth”? I actually think this Pope would like your comment. Just a hunch. I think he can take it.